“I will take Fate by the throat; it shall not wholly overcome me. Oh, it is beautiful to live—to live a thousand times! I feel that I am not made for a quiet life.” – Ludwig van Beethoven on his impending deafness
In this article, I address the issue of suicide and, more generally, self-destructive behavior. I argue that, no matter your circumstances, no matter how bad things get, you should affirm your will to live and create yourself, not destroy yourself. Now, some readers may think that I’m offering unwanted advice here or that I’m not qualified to give advice. Nevertheless, if this article prevents at least one person from committing suicide, then it was worth writing and posting.
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. I am not giving “professional” counseling or therapy to those who are contemplating suicide.
Consider the following statistics and facts about the US population:
• From 1999 to 2014, the suicide rate increased every year for both sexes and every age group except those 75 and older. (Source)
• In 2014, 13 people per 100,000 committed suicide, compared with 10.5 per 100,000 in 1999. In 2014, 20.7 men per 100,000 committed suicide, compared with 5.8 women per 100,000. (Source)
• In 2014, white males accounted for 70% of the suicides. The suicide rate is highest among middle-aged people, especially white men. (Source)
• From 1999 to 2013, the all-cause mortality rates for middle-aged, white, non-Hispanic men and women increased significantly. This increase is largely explained by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis. (Source)
• Females attempt suicide three times as often as males, but males are four times more likely than females to die by suicide. (Source)
• Twenty veterans commit suicide daily. In 2014, more than 7,400 veterans committed suicide. This accounts for 18% of all suicides in the US, and yet veterans make up less than 9% of the US population. (Sources 1 and 2)
• In 2013 and 2014, a record-high number of Special Operations Forces (SOF) members—including Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces, and Army Rangers—committed suicide. (Source)
• Recently, two BUD/S dropouts effectively committed suicide: one jumped off a building; another got very drunk, drove, and died in a car accident. (Source)
• Even Michael Phelps—the most decorated Olympian of all time, who has won 28 Olympic medals (23 gold, three silver, and two bronze)—was contemplating suicide after getting arrested for a DUI in 2014. (Source)
• Finally, when I was taking finance courses at Northwestern University in 2012, several Northwestern students (whom I did not know or share classes with) committed suicide.
Overall, these facts show that suicide is becoming a bigger and bigger problem in contemporary American society.
Obviously, no one should be committing suicide or even seriously considering suicide as a real option. On the issue of suicide, I have two perspectives: the spiritual or religious perspective and the more practical, hardcore perspective.
From a spiritual perspective, I believe that, at the transcendental level, your life is not yours to take. The universe or God has bestowed life upon you, and it is not your decision to take it away. You will die someday but the universe or God, not you, shall choose the day. Therefore, virtually every major religion and form of spirituality forbids and disapproves of suicide. After all, you have been blessed with the gift of life, and it is up to you to make the absolute best of it, even if it does involve a lot of suffering.
From a more practical, hardcore perspective, I believe that you NEVER, EVER give up on yourself. You NEVER quit on yourself. This holds true even if any of the following conditions are true:
• You’re extremely depressed
• You’re suffering from extreme physical, mental, or emotional pain
• You’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness. (Possible exception: you’re at least 60 years old, you’re dying from a terminal illness, and you want your doctor to help you end your suffering. In this case, I can understand.)
• You’ve failed miserably at an important life goal
• You’ve dropped out of BUD/S or any other military training
• You’ve been through hardcore combat for 10+ years and you’ve seen countless horrific things
• You’ve lost some or all of your teammates in combat
• You’ve been molested or raped
• You’ve been abducted, imprisoned, and turned into a sex slave
• You’ve been working in the sex trade and you feel it has destroyed your soul
• You’ve survived a horrific mass shooting or terrorist attack
• Your significant other, family member, relative, or close friend has died
• Your significant other, family member, relative, or close friend has committed suicide
• You’re a 20, 30, 40, or 50-year-old virgin, and you believe no one wants to date you or have sex with you. You believe you will die a virgin.
• You learn that your significant other has been ruthlessly cheating on you
• Your significant other has left you for someone else
• Your significant other has filed for divorce or broken up with you
• You’ve just been laid off from your job
• You’ve been unemployed for a long time and you’re greatly struggling to get another job
• The stock market has crashed and you’ve lost 50% of your retirement savings
• Everything in your life (your job, finances, physical health, marriage, social life) is going horribly wrong
• You’re homeless and living on the streets
• You’re serving a lifetime prison sentence
• You’ve received the death penalty
• You’re being held and tortured in a POW camp
• You were in a Nazi concentration camp (e.g. Auschwitz)
• You were in a Soviet or North Korean labor camp (gulag)
Regardless of the circumstances, NEVER, EVER give up on yourself. Admittedly, I haven’t experienced most of the aforementioned things but the principle still holds true. And I’m certain that the most mentally tough people in the world would agree.
Recall the Navy SEAL Motto: “I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. [...] If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”
So if you’re reading this article, please make the following promise to yourself now: “I promise that I will never give up on myself. I promise that I will never take my own life. No matter how bad things get, I will fight until the very end.”
Yes, we all face adversity in one way or another. Sometimes we face extreme adversity. Sometimes we go through very dark times and in this sense “look into the abyss.”
When you look into the abyss, you face an existential challenge that tests your will to live.
Now, if you look into the abyss but realize and affirm your will to live—if you declare, “I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I am never out of the fight.”—then you will be realizing the greatest possible source of inner strength, which will sustain you for the rest of your life. It will be your own personal crucible experience.
And this crucible experience will allow you to look back someday in the future and say to yourself, “I looked straight into the abyss, affirmed my will to live, and persevered. I faced the existential challenge and triumphed. As a result, I ended up accomplishing all these things. I ended up improving, progressing, and growing massively. I ended up making a massive comeback, and I seized so many incredible opportunities.”
However, if you give up on yourself and take your own life, you will not get to experience all your future victories or triumphs. You will not get to see yourself improve, progress, or grow. You will not get to see your massive comeback. You will miss out on all the incredible opportunities ahead of you.
So make the right decision: Affirm your will to live. Dominate the existential challenge.
PRACTICAL ACTION STEPS
Having expressed my philosophical perspectives on suicide, I will now list practical action steps that you can take in order to improve your mental, physical, and emotional health.
1. Meditate twice or thrice daily for 10-20 minutes.
I will say this over and over again: meditating daily will increase your focus, discipline, awareness, presence, and mindfulness. When you meditate, you are observing your thoughts in the present moment and learning how to disassociate yourself from them and focus on your breathing. When you’re depressed or having very dark thoughts, this is exactly what you need to do: disassociate yourself from your thoughts and develop mindfulness and awareness. You must realize the extent to which your thoughts are controlling or terrorizing you, and you must learn to detach yourself from them.
Furthermore, meditation will help relieve stress and anxiety. I find that meditating twice or thrice daily is just as relaxing as taking a nice vacation. How would you like to take a relaxing mental vacation once, twice, or thrice daily? Then meditate.
Here are zazen instructions.
2. Develop positive self-talk, a positive mental attitude, and a positive, empowering belief system.
If you’re depressed or suicidal, you likely have very negative self-talk and a negative belief system. For example, you may have the following thoughts:
• “I cannot do X.”
• “I will fail at X.”
• “I will quit (or I might quit) at some point when trying to do X.”
• “I will never accomplish my goals.”
• “My life is a disaster.”
• “I’m a loser.”
• “I’m worthless.”
• “I have zero self-esteem, zero self-worth.”
• “The world is collapsing. There is no point in living.”
• “I will likely have a lower standard of living than my parents. There is no point in living.”
• “The world will be better off without me.”
For the sake of your mental, physical, and emotional health, you absolutely must re-frame these negative beliefs into positive ones:
• “I can do X.”
• “I will succeed at X.”
• “I will persevere and accomplish X, even if I struggle greatly or fail repeatedly.”
• “I will accomplish my goals, even if I struggle greatly or fail repeatedly. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time.”
• “My life is a process of learning and growing. I’ve experienced my share of adversity, and it has made me mentally tougher, stronger, and more tenacious.”
• “I’m a winner, even if I don’t come in first place at everything.”
• “I have an unlimited amount of value to contribute to this world.”
• “I have high self-esteem and high self-worth in the healthy, positive sense.”
• “The world is fluid and dynamic. There are always opportunities. There is every reason to live.”
• “The world will be very different from the one in which my parents lived. In certain respects (e.g. technology and medical advancements), it will be vastly superior. There will always be opportunities. So there is every reason to live.”
• “I will help make the world a better place.”
Now, constantly tell yourself these positive statements (among other ones) on an hourly and daily basis. This will help you develop and reinforce a positive, empowering belief system.
In short, ALWAYS think positively, especially when you’re facing adversity.
3. In order to develop and reinforce your positive belief system, list all the positive things in your life.
Do not list anything negative. State all these positive things in positive terms (e.g. “I’m healthy” versus “I’m not sick”). For example, you might list the following basic things:
• “I’m alive.”
• “I’m healthy.”
• “I have a roof over my head.”
• “I have sufficient food.”
• “I have family and friends who love me.”
• “I have a job.”
• “I have Internet access, which allows me to learn about virtually anything.”
• “I live in the United States of America, a country whose founding principle is the right to life, liberty, property (effectively), and the pursuit of happiness. Yes, the American Founding Fathers want me to be alive and free, to have my own private property that is secured and protected, and to be able to pursue my own conception of happiness.”
Express gratitude for each thing you list.
Now, for the rest of your life (e.g. every three months), update this list with every positive thing that develops or comes to mind. For example:
• “I have lost 10lb.”
• “I have been working out consistently for the past three months. I have gotten stronger, faster, and fitter.”
• “I have gotten a new job or internship.”
• “I have gotten a promotion at work.”
• “I have opened an IRA and started investing for the long-term.”
• “My spouse and I have celebrated our third wedding anniversary.”
By constantly updating this list with positive events, you will be creating tons of positive, forward momentum in your life.
4. Read books on mental toughness.
IMPORTANT: If you’re seriously having very dark, suicidal thoughts, just email me saying so and briefly explain your situation, and I will send you the NMF Self-Mastery Guide for free. We will use the honor system. So if you’re not seriously having dark, suicidal thoughts, please do not ask me for a free copy of the guide. Just buy it. The money will be an excellent investment in yourself.
5. If necessary, seek and participate in a support group.
Oftentimes discussing your issues with other, sympathetic people can help you tremendously. You must realize that you are not alone and that others care about you.
6. If necessary, see a skilled, experienced psychologist.
A skilled, experienced psychologist may be able to help you significantly or at least point you in the right direction.
However, beware of antidepressant drugs, which can have suicidal thoughts as a side effect.
7. If you’re so inclined, develop spirituality or faith, which can be a very powerful source of hope and strength for many people.
If (Zen) Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or any other form of religion or spirituality helps you overcome your depression or suicidal thoughts, then excellent. Use whatever works, as long as it’s healthy, positive, and constructive.
However, if you’re a hardcore atheist who rejects any form of religion or spirituality, you have many other tools and resources for overcoming depression or suicidal thoughts. And do not view religion or spirituality as a threat.
8. Exercise consistently.
Do resistance training twice or thrice per week and cardio twice or thrice per week. Even doing cardio twice per week by itself is much better for your physical and mental health than doing nothing at all.
You can even sign up for NO-MIND FITNESS Monthly Programming. I would be happy to help.
9. Eat healthily.
I recommend Paleo. Eat meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruit, sweet potatoes, and possibly rice.
Do not consume junk: soda, chips, pretzels, crackers, French fries, popcorn, candy, cookies, twinkies, brownies, cake, ice cream, fast food, etc. The less junk you consume, the better.
10. Do not do hard, illicit drugs.
Hard, illicit drugs (cocaine, crack, heroin, meth, ecstasy, etc.) will not help you in terms of your depression or suicidal thoughts. They will only make things worse.
11. Do not consume tobacco.
In the long-term, smoking or ingesting tobacco kills. You want to live a long time, not kill yourself slowly.
12. Eliminate or minimize your consumption of alcohol.
The less alcohol you drink, the better. If you do drink, drink moderately: 1-2 drinks once or twice per week or less often.
In contemporary American culture, many people (especially college students) drink alcohol to relieve stress, anxiety, or depression. It has almost become an American rite of passage to drink heavily (i.e. binge-drink) every weekend when you’re in college and in your twenties, as if you’re training to become a lifetime alcoholic.
Drinking alcohol may allow you to loosen up and have fun (which you can do without alcohol). But it will not fundamentally address your issues or fundamentally improve your life. It will not fundamentally help you overcome your depression or suicidal thoughts. In fact, it may make things worse.
13. Do not compare yourself to others.
If you constantly compare yourself to others from a petty, egocentric perspective, you will likely feel stressed, anxious, dissatisfied, and possibly miserable. This will not help you if you are having very dark thoughts.
So focus on yourself and your individual progress and growth. You are competing only against yourself.
In addition, do not try to win the “popularity contest” on social media. Rather, use social media selectively, intelligently, and prudently.
14. Set SMART goals, visualize success daily, and aggressively pursue them by taking decisive, consistent action.
SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. For example:
• “For the next month, I will meditate twice daily: 10 minutes in the morning, and 10 minutes at night before bed.”
• “For the next three months, I will do full-body, bodyweight, resistance workouts thrice a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday).”
• “For the next month, I will run one mile twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday).”
• “For the next month, I will eat fairly strict Paleo six days per week (Sunday – Friday) and not have any junk food on those days. On Saturday, I will eat Paleo but allow myself to have a moderate quantity of junk food.”
• “For the next year, I will save at least $100 every month and keep it in a savings or money market account, so that I will have at least $1200 by the end of the year.”
Once you set SMART goals and aggressively pursue them, you will feel much better and less depressed. Why sit around feeling sorry for yourself and depressed when you can be taking decisive, consistent action toward your goals and improving, progressing, and growing?
In addition, every day, for at least five minutes, close your eyes and visualize yourself achieving all your life goals. In particular, visualize the ideal or elite version of yourself achieving all your life goals. Visualize yourself being successful, positive, healthy, productive, strong, fit, mentally tough, and mentally tenacious.
Over time, intensive daily visualization will help you significantly in achieving your goals and in becoming the ideal or elite version of yourself.
15. Specify those aspects of your life with which you’re dissatisfied and then tackle those issues directly and aggressively.
For example, if you’re highly dissatisfied with your professional life, then tackle the issue directly and aggressively: choose a career field, read the best books on that field, update your resume, network with people in that field, interview for a job or internship, continue to educate yourself on that field, and so on.
If you’re highly dissatisfied with your financial life, then tackle the issue directly and aggressively: read the best books on personal finance and investing, start overhauling your finances, start saving more and investing more, and so on.
If you’re highly dissatisfied with your athletic/fitness life, then tackle the issue directly and aggressively: learn the basics about fitness, start working out consistently, start improving your diet, and so on. Again, you can sign up for Monthly Programming.
In conclusion, use these 15 strategies listed above to create yourself—to forge your own identity—instead of destroying yourself. I believe these 15 strategies will allow you to fundamentally address your issues and fundamentally improve your life. If you meditate daily; develop positive self-talk and a positive, empowering belief system; list all the positive things in your life; read books on mental toughness; participate in a support group; see a skilled, experienced psychologist; develop spirituality or faith; exercise consistently; eat healthily; avoid hard, illicit drugs, tobacco, and alcohol; avoid comparing yourself to others; set SMART goals, visualize success daily, and take decisive, consistent action; and tackle your issues directly and aggressively—then you will be absolutely affirming your will to live and dominating the existential challenge that we all face.
Create yourself. Do not destroy yourself.